Monday, October 11, 2021

4 Conventions and a Music Festival

 Hey everyone! A thoroughly exhausted Mary here. I just survived what I've been calling the Month of Madness... though it was more like a month and a half. Starting with Awesome Con in mid August, it's been pretty much back-to-back-to-back events, including four weekends in a row. Basically, thanks to pandemic year scheduling, things that should have taken place months apart all got smashed into the same timeframe.

The last time I was on here, I was wondering what the dickens to expect from the return of events. Awesome Con was barely in the rearview mirror, and Gen Con was coming up... followed by Capclave, followed by New York Comic Con. Oh, and I also attended Firefly Music Festival. 

Well, now having been to four conventions and a music festival, I've got something of an idea. The atmosphere at all these events was definitely different from 2019... the good ole beforetimes. Some things were better... Both Gen Con and Firefly were noticeably chiller than in years past. Limited attendance meant fewer crowds, and everyone seemed more relaxed as a result. Of course, that wasn't great for Gen Con sales. I can't complain really -- they were at 60% of 2019's attendance, and we our book sales were 70% of what we had in 2019, so we beat the odds at least -- but it did mean a lot more lulls in Authors' Ave. 

As an attendee at Firefly, though, the slower pace was nice. There wasn't as much of a mad rush to get places, lines were shorter, and people actually respected personal space. From what I've seen in one of the Gen Con Facebook groups, attendees there felt similarly. A lot of people were saying "oh, they should keep it like this every year." And maybe these events were growing faster than they could manage previously. I have a feeling that the machine of capitalism won't allow for that though, and that the giant companies that organize these events will want max attendance as soon as they're able.

Before New York Comic Con, I would have, from a vendor perspective, been with them. But holy crap NYCC was a madhouse, and I witnessed for the first time what it felt like for an Artist Alley to be TOO busy. For some of the artists (like the two extremely talented visual artists on either side of our table), it was good for business though exhausting for them personally (these poor guys barely got breaks to eat or drink). For me and Elizabeth Corrigan, who were sharing a table, the crowd became a problem. People were unable to even see our table because there were too many people. Normally the way we start a pitch is by offering free bookmarks and cards, but when the aisle got too crowded, people went into dodging mode and just bobbed and weaved along rather than browsing. 

This was my first time at NYCC so I can't compare, but a few longtime NYCC-goers said it was a weird vibe. People were coming out of their hidey-holes for the first time in almost two years and had forgotten how to con. Enthusiasm was high, but so was confusion and general... weirdness. Sales-wise, though, we couldn't complain. I matched Gen Con in terms of sales, though considering NYCC made us work 10-hour days instead of the usual 8, I'd still say Gen Con was a better show.

As for Capclave? Again, it was my first time there (for the full weekend at least; I'd gone down for a single Saturday back in 2019) so I couldn't really compare. I was told by longtime goers that it was much lighter than previously. I didn't have a table there - I was just on panels - and I did notice that attendance was rather light. And again, there was something odd in the air.

But for all five events, people were good about following the pandemic year rules -- showing proof of vaccination when asked and keeping their masks on for the most part. And as far as I'm aware, none have turned into super-spreader events.

Here's hoping the weirdness dissipates in 2022!

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